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Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson are the creative sparks behind Heart, a rock group that found success in the 1980s and is currently on its first-ever Canada tour.
It has been 35 years since the rock band Heart exploded onto the Billboard charts with three singles from its debut album, Dreamboat Annie.
In just a few short weeks, Crazy On You, Magic Man and the title track became household names to music lovers.
Topping the charts brought huge changes to the lives of Americans Ann and Nancy Wilson, who had joined the Vancouver-based band in the early 1970s.
“We went from trying to get people interested in a band and some new songs to having our songs welcomed like old friends by audience members at our concerts,” says Ann, the daughter of a Marine Corps captain, who grew up in Southern California and Taiwan before settling in Seattle where she now lives.
Going from obscurity to fame is one of the many things she witnessed as one of the creative sparks behind Heart, a band with more than 30 million albums sold and 22 Top 40 hits over the past four decades.
Other things are more personal.
“I’ve also known what it’s like to struggle and work really hard against the brick wall that many women face when they try to become successful in the music business as anything other than cheesecake. I’ve had ups and downs, good and bad.
“But I’ve known moments when the door seems to be open and people are listening and understanding and ready to give credibility (to my music) on an equal basis. And those have been amazing moments.
“I also went from a girl of 22 to someone of my age who has tons of musical experience,” says the 57-year-old who will relive her musical journey when she joins her sister, Nancy (guitar and vocals), and their band on stage during the Heart Comes Home concert at the Charlottetown Civic Centre on Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
For Heart fans, old and new, it will be an evening to remember.
“We have a lot to show people. We are bringing our whole body of work — starting from the very beginning with songs like Dog and the Butterfly to our most recent work,” says Ann, adding the concert tour is in support of the band’s new album, Red Velvet Car.
The title track of the newest CD is a moving song about friendship.
“It’s about someone who would get up in the middle of the night to rescue a friend who is standing in the pouring rain,” she says.
Hey You, written by Nancy after the breakup of her marriage, is about the arc of a love affair.
“It’s really a great song. Even though it’s about something hard, there is an optimistic thread running through it because Nancy is a romantic. She believes in love. She believes it’s possible. She always will,” says Ann, adding she’s looking forward to showcasing the CD during the cross-Canada tour.
“We are really excited about this because we’ve never done a Canada-only, coast to coast, total immersion tour before. So if audiences in Charlottetown are anything like they are in the United States, where we perform constantly, it will be a pretty mixed demographic.
“There will be kids, their parents and their parents. So it should be interesting seeing the generations getting together,” says Ann, who continues to tour, performing 80 to 90 dates a year, and shows no signs of her slowing down.
“I’m pretty single-minded when it comes to music. There’s almost nothing in life that gets me off more than music. Music is my thing.”
Her secret to longevity in the music business?
“People would find me boring,” she says, with a laugh. “I don’t drink. I take vitamins and work out. I do 35 minutes of cardio, weights, pilates and yoga four times a week. It works.”
AT A GLANCE
Heart’s formative years
Based in Vancouver, B.C., Heart was actually formed in 1963 by bassist Steve Fossen and brothers Roger and Mike Fisher.
Initially dubbed the Army, the band later became White Heart before settling on simply Heart at the beginning of the ‘70s.
After her arrival in the group, Ann became romantically involved with guitarist Mike Fisher.
When Nancy joined in 1974 she, in turn, began a relationship with guitarist Roger Fisher. Soon after Nancy’s arrival, Mike Fisher retired from active performing to become the band’s sound engineer. Roger Fisher retired from the group in 1979.
After gaining a following in Vancouver, Heart was approached by Canadian label Mushroom to record its debut album, Dreamboat Annie, in 1975.
Over the years musicians, have come and gone. Nancy and Ann Wilson are now the only original members of the band.
Spotlight on Ann Wilson
Current city: Seattle.
Advice to people hoping to break into the music industry: “If you’re not ready to give up everything, then you ought to keep your day job . . . . That’s because if you plan to take it really far and get up there on the world stage you have to be committed.”
Favourite pastime: “If I had a free afternoon, I would love to bury myself in listening to music and strumming and singing by myself.”